Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Gill Lice in PA Brook Trout

Growing up in Northcentral Pennsylvania, chasing wild brook trout has always been a passion for me.  I am always amazed when I read books such as The Vanishing Trout (Lose 1931) or Bodines (Up De Graff 1879) which talk of catching 18 inch brookies from the main stems of the Loyalsock or Lycoming Creeks with little effort.  Lose even proposed to close all the tributaries of the Loyalsock and other larger streams to fishing, preserving them as nursery waters, when now this is about the only place one can find a healthy population of brook trout. 

I've wondered many times what it would have been like to fish these streams before the lumbering days and the aftermath of sediment laden warm waters it left in it's wake.  Recently, I've been blessed to have the opportunity to fish Navarino Island in Cape Horn, Chile.  Navarino is a relatively untouched environment with some of, if not the most, pristine water in the world.  It also holds many brook trout over 18 inches (admittedly wild but not native).   While I am thankful for the chance to fish this magical place, I find myself thinking even  more about the fishery we used to have here, that at one time would have rivaled a place I now travel 7,000 miles to fish. 

Navarino Brook Trout

While the lumber days took its toll on our native brook trout population, most of the headwater streams continue to hold decent populations of these speckled beauties, even if they are typically on the diminutive side of the ruler.  Despite what may seem like a strong foothold in the mountains, the struggle continues.  Warming temperatures, the invasion of the Wolly Adelgid which is destroying our hemlocks that shade many of these streams, development of all types, and drought have been tough on Salvelinus Fontinalis.  This year was especially brutal as it relates to water levels and temperatures.  There were many days when fishing was not even an option, as there literally was no water in some of the high mountain streams, or water that was well above temperature levels where fishing would be considered responsible. 

Well, it appears there is now another hurdle for the brook trout of Pennsylvania, gill lice.  Gill lice are a parasitic copepod (tiny crustacean) that attaches to the gills or other external areas of fish and can cause significant trauma.  This can affect the trout's ability to respire, cause immune system dysfunction, affect warm water tolerance, and ultimately cause death.  The gill lice were detected in several Centre County freestone streams and appear to have originated from a co-op nursery.  While all of the hatchery fish were destroyed, the gill lice have been observed in wild brook trout collected during stream survey work. 

Brook Trout with gill lice (Photo used with permission from PFBC)
PFBC is still trying to determine the full extent of the problem, but they are asking that anglers who catch brook trout check the gills for indications of gill lice.  If you catch a trout that shows the presence of gill lice, you are asked to record the information listed below and submit it to David Nihart from PFBC.  Additional information can be found in this news release from PATU.

The brook trout of Pennsylvania are fighters and have endured much, but I sometimes wonder how much more they will be able to overcome.  Hopefully this will not be as bad of a situation as it has the potential of becoming, but I have my reservations.  I would also like to take this opportunity to remind everyone to clean their gear between trips for not only the slim chance of transferring gill lice, but other invasive species we are currently dealing with. 

"It is hard to imagine these streams without their rightful owners, the brook trout."  (Charles Lose, The Vanishing Trout, 1931). 

Information to be submitted to PFBC:

*Stream name.
*Where the fish was caught (e.g. Strobes Road Bridge near Milltown).
*If possible, include a latitude and longitude of catch location.
*Date fish was caught.
*Photo of fish that shows possible gill lice.


Please send information via email or standard mail directly to:
David Nihart | Fisheries Biologist
Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission
Division of Fisheries Management | Coldwater Unit
450 Robinson Lane | Bellefonte, PA 16823
www.fishandboat.com | davnihart@pa.gov



Sunday, September 18, 2016

Trout Tails - September 18, 2016

Sometimes you are forced to call an audible.  With all that was going on in and around Yellowstone this year, we decided to head west to Missoula instead of our annual park trip.  Exploring new water is always fun, and really, it was about time that we did this.  Don't get me wrong, I love the park, but it is nice to change it up every once and a while. 

We spent the week exploring small streams in the Bitterroot and Lolo National Forests, as well as fishing the Blackfoot.  While we didn't catch any monsters, we did catch quite a few nice fish.  Being from PA, it took a while to get used to fishing tricos at 2 in the afternoon, but we had 2 days in particular where there was pretty steady trico action from about 10-2pm.  Watching size 8 October Caddis (read pterodactyls) flutter around clumsily was pretty wild as well.  Probably could have done without the moose encounter 50 feet from the car at the end of one day, but after a couple detours, we were able to get to the car and snap a few photos.  Hope you enjoy!  Can't wait for next year!


Bull Trout Spawning, had to skip a good bit of water so we didn't disturb them, but pretty cool to see.  



October Caddis
Crawling in and out of this canyon was interesting, but absolutely beautiful!








Largest crayfish I've ever seen.  Around 8 inches....guess I know what I'll be tying for next year.

Another canyon excursion



The reward for the climb




We weren't the only ones fishing
 
Until next year


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Trout Tails - June 5, 2016

It has been a busy two months.  Water levels have been lower than normal, but the hatches have been incredible.  Spent a few days on the Elk in West Virginia, but ended up being about a week too early for the sulphurs there, and hit an odd weather pattern for May (rain, snow, and sleet) at the end of the trip.  Still managed some good fishing though.

The last couple weeks have been spent chasing wild fish in the mountains of Northcentral PA.  Green drakes on a 0 and 3 weight are a lot of fun!  There is still a lot of hatches to chase and fish to be had, so get out there! 











Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Trout Tails - April 26, 2016

Just a few shots from last night's Wine, Women, and Waders put on by PA Council of TU at Pier 87 on the Loyalsock.  Thanks to Kandy for organizing it and all the volunteers and women that attended, it was a blast!